When the Rainbow Pantry food bank began in the 1970’s, it was run out of the closet of a woman in Sandy Cross, Ga.
Jack Exum, a local pastor noticed the need and began to partner with private partners to build a property in Royston.
Although the program has grown throughout the years, the foundation behind it hasn’t changed.
“We want to ensure if people are in true need they can get it here,” said VP of the Rainbow Pantry and City of Royston Police Chief, Donnie Boleman. “We believe if a person has food in their fridge and pantry, it gives them a peace of mind and allows them to think about God’s service to them and how he provides.”
On the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, the pantry distributes food to those in need.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, they went from serving 3,000 people per year to 8,000. This equates to 16 TONS of food being distributed through the pantry.
With a handful of volunteer workers, the Pantry was stretched thin. God noticed their need and renewed a partnership with Emmanuel College’s EC Serve team.
Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, 10 teams from Emmanuel, with more than 50 students regularly volunteered to serve at the Pantry, helping stock shelves, pack and distribute bags of food.
“Rainbow Pantry provides such a beautiful opportunity for Emmanuel College students to serve locally,” said Director of EC Serve, Mandy Moore. “Our students always enjoy working with the leaders and volunteers at Rainbow Pantry while distributing basic need items to the families within the area. This experience reminds us how blessed we are and how easy it is to show the love of Jesus to others through service.”
For the Pantry, partnerships like this one are the heartbeat of what they do.
“Without our partners we’re nothing but a building,” said Boleman. “Those partnerships fill up this building. Without them, we couldn’t serve the amount of people that we do in this town.”
Although the Rainbow Pantry serves as a food bank and resource center for those needing basic essentials, sometimes its prayer that brings a person through their door.
“I can’t tell you how many times people will come up here and say, ‘I don’t need food today, but I knew I could come here for prayer,’” Boleman said. “I will stop what I’m doing right there and pray with them.
Chief Boleman oversees the Pantry alongside his wife who serves as the Director and his uncle, Ronnie Pickens who oversees ordering and stocking the shelves.
Recent Emmanuel graduate, Austin Hoopengardener became a regular volunteer at the Rainbow Pantry and saw the experience as humbling.
“This is some of the most humbling work that you can do by just giving your time and effort to help others that need it,” he said. “It begins to set on your heart differently when you begin to realize that God loves those that don’t have as much materialistically just as much as he loves me.”
Over the years as the Rainbow Pantry has grown and served countless members of our community, its foundation has stayed the same with God at the center of it all.